Pediatric Nephrology

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 627–636 | Cite as

Role of mitotic, pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic factors in human kidney development

  • Dominko Carev
  • Dragan Krni
  • Marijan Saraga
  • Damir Sapunar
  • Mirna Saraga-BabiEmail author
Original Article


The expression pattern of mitotic Ki-67 and anti-apoptotic bcl-2 proteins, as well as apoptotic caspase-3 and p53 proteins, were investigated in the human mesonephros and metanephros of 5–9 week-old human conceptuses. Apoptotic cells were additionally detected using the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) nick-end labelling (TUNEL) method. Between the 5th and 7th developmental weeks Ki-67, caspase-3 and TUNEL-positive cells characterized all mesonephric structures, indicating importance of cell proliferation in the growth of the mesonephros and role of apoptosis in nephrogenesis. From the 7th week on, p53 and bcl-2 positive cells appeared in the mesonephros as well. Regressive changes in the mesonephros could be regulated by activation of p53, while bcl-2 could contribute to selective survival of some tubules giving rise to adult structures. In the early human metanephros (5–7 weeks), Ki-67 positive cells characterized all metanephric structures, indicating a role of cell proliferation in branching of the ureteric bud and in nephron formation. During the same period bcl-2, caspase-3 and TUNEL-positive cells were found only in the metanephric mesenchyme and nephrons. Bcl-2 protein probably protected nephrons from apoptosis, while caspase-3 protein controlled cell death in the mesenchyme. At later stages (7–9-weeks), appearance of p53-expressing cells could participate in further morphogenesis of the metanephric collecting system. The factors investigated had a spatially and temporally restricted pattern of appearance in developing kidneys. Changes in that pattern might lead to serious disturbances of kidney formation and function in early childhood.


Human embryo Kidney development Mesonephros Metanephros 



We are grateful to Mrs. Asja Miletiæ for her skilful technical assistance. This work was supported by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia (grants no. 0216002 and 0216001).


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Copyright information

© IPNA 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dominko Carev
    • 1
  • Dragan Krni
    • 1
  • Marijan Saraga
    • 2
  • Damir Sapunar
    • 1
  • Mirna Saraga-Babi
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, School of MedicineUniversity of SplitSplitCroatia
  2. 2.Department of PaediatricsClinical Hospital of SplitSplitCroatia

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